Space Category Proposal

The following was my letter to the IPMS/USA National Contest Committee proposing revisions to the Space and Science Fiction categories. It was sent out around October 1998, and by the end of the year I got their reply. They picked up several of my ideas, but at least one key suggestion was left on the table. In any event, this letter led to a list of category guidelines that I distributed at the Convention.

To the IPMS National Contest Committee,

After much thought, review of prior experiences, and discussion amongst the space modeling community, I would like to make some proposals regarding the Space and Science Fiction contest categories. My goal is to clarify the rules and revise the categories to correct some of the confusion we have had over the last few years.

This memo includes three things:
- Proposal for a new "Unpiloted Military Aircraft and Missiles" category
- A revision of the definition of "Missiles" to accommodate this new category
- A set of guidelines for judges to use in placing space related entries in the proper category.

The specific recommendations are presented first, followed by some discussion and commentary.


There is a paragraph in the rules about missiles. It now reads:

8. MISSILES. All vehicle-carried missiles will be placed in the Armor division. All missiles in flight attitude or on landing gear will be entered in the proper aircraft category. Missiles used in space research which originated as military vehicles (e.g., Atlas/Centaur or Mercury/Redstone) will be placed in the Spacecraft category.

I propose we add a new category for military missiles and rockets. It would be called: "Unpiloted Military Aircraft and Missiles" (henceforth abbreviated as UMAM) and could either be part or the Aircraft (preferable) or Space divisions. I would then propose the following wording for the rules:

8. MISSILES. All vehicle-carried missiles where the carrier vehicle (assumed to be a surface vehicle) is a substantial fraction of the model will be placed in the Armor division. All other missiles, rockets, and unmanned aircraft in military markings or carrying a warhead or military reconnaissance payload will be entered in the "Unpiloted Military Aircraft and Missiles" category. Any such vehicle with military markings but used in space research or as a space booster will be placed in the "Real Spacecraft and Vehicles" category.

This makes the criteria either the payload (first) or markings (second), and allows an Atlas rocket in Air Force markings to be entered in Real Space as long as it is being used as a space launcher. The parenthetical remark about surface-based vehicles makes it clear that we are not talking about an F-14 with Phoenix missiles. This puts unmanned reconnaissance drones (no warhead) in the military category. It also puts anti-aircraft batteries (Honest John, Hawk) into category 223, Artillery. Note that there is now the following terminology used in the category listing:

"Artillery, all eras, towed (includes missile carriers and all scales of railroad guns)"

I think the wording can stand because of the use of the word 'carriers'.


Note that obvious items (Apollo, Mir, Mercury-Redstone, etc.) are not listed. This list is intended to help clarify borderline entries.

 Model  Category  Basis  Note
Any Shuttle Orbiter or stack Real Space Type 1.
Orbiter on 747 Civilian Aircraft Type 1.
X-15 Aircraft Judging 2.
Winged military missiles
    (Snark, Regulus, Honest John. etc.)
UMAM Type 3.
V-2 and military variants UMAM Markings 4.
X-planes     5.
  X-1, -2, -3, -4, -5, -13, -14, -15, -18, -19, -21, -22, -24, -25, -26, -28, -29, -31 (plus newer JSF concepts I've lost track of) Aircraft Type  
  X-7, -9, -10, -11, -12, -17 Missiles (UMAM) Type  
  X-8, -20, -23, -30, -33 Real Space Type  
Any real space launcher Real Space Type  
Sanger spaceplane Real Space Type 6.
Manned V-2 (A-9) Hypothetical Judging 6A.
Research V-2 Real Space Type  
Astronaut in space suit Figures Type 7.
Lunar rover w/astronauts walking on a moonscape Misc. dioramas Diorama rule 8.
Lunar rover w/astronauts seated in rover on a moonscape Real Space Diorama rule 8.
Sounding rockets
    (Aerobee, etc.)
Real Space Type, payload  
Titan ICBM UMAM Payload, markings  


1. A Shuttle Orbiter is more like an F-104 than an Apollo Lunar Module. So purely from a judge's point of view, shouldn't Orbiters go in some kind of aircraft category? What if the payload bay is opened and a satellite is exposed? If the entry is the whole STS stack (with boosters and tank), then there is no question it goes in Real Space. Again, we are stuck with an inconsistency. If we categorize by judging standards, Orbiters go with aircraft. If we use type as the criterion, then it goes in Space. But by that basis, X-15s could go in either one (you then argue if an X-15 is more of an airplane or space vehicle). So my view is any Shuttle goes in Real Space, while X-15s go in Aircraft.

How about an Orbiter on a 747? I think in 97 in Virginia we had two 1/100th scale 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with Orbiters on top, and they were put in Civilian Aircraft. Is this acceptable? I think so. Here, we have a conflict in type between the 747 aircraft and Orbiter spacecraft. The operating regime is now in the atmosphere, so that criteria would put it in (civilian) aircraft. This also works well for judging criteria.

2. X-15s were put in Aircraft in Santa Clara in 1998. Some folks said these have historically gone in Real Space. The argument for X-15s in Aircraft is the same one that results in putting V-2s in Real Space (which many space modelers don't like). The X-15 looks like an airplane as far as judging is concerned. It has wings, landing gear and an engine. (Hey, just like most unmanned missiles!) A V-2 is like a Saturn V (or any other space booster) in that it is mostly a tube with fins, so it goes in Real Space. At least from a judge's eye. (As Glenn Johnson has pointed out, so would a submarine.) The idea is to categorize by modeling aspects, not just markings.

Unfortunately, IPMS categories aren't always consistent in that regard. This statement is based on the fact that many IPMS categories are segregated wholly upon markings. But note that this is usually done at the lowest levels (Segregate first by major division, then type, and then such things as scale and markings.). I would really like any recommendations to be based on consistent reasoning. So from one point of view (major type divisions) putting X-15s in Real Space would be a completely reasonable proposition. Here, you base the distinction on "type", as it is more like the other stuff in that category. I'm not sure I agree. An X-15 can arguably be placed in either Space or Aircraft based purely on type or operating regime. Personally, I don't think X-15s or winged missiles belong in Real Space at all. Just because an X-15 can reach 100 miles or "Space" doesn't make it a space vehicle from a modeling point of view. There aren't enough X-planes to warrant a separate category, so I think they will just have to compete with the aircraft. Military missiles, however, definitely demand a new/special category.

3. Recent IPMS National Contests have seen quite a few winged missiles and unpiloted aircraft (Mace, Loon, Regulus, etc.). These have been entered in such categories as Real Space, Artillery, Miscellaneous, and Aircraft. I am proposing propose a new category for these, and it would include V-2s and other vertical launched, unmanned missiles and similar weapons. The problem is that this may only be a solution for National Contests, since smaller events generally don't get enough entries to warrant a separate category.

The new category would be called "Unpiloted Military Aircraft and Missiles". Unbuilt German Secret Projects go in Hypothetical (at least at the National IPMS level). Base the distinction largely on markings and/or presence of warhead or recce payload. For smaller contests, I am afraid (based on consistency and here we are simply using markings) these need to go in Real Space (maybe renamed "Space, Missiles, and Science Fiction" at this level).

The new UMAM category would include vehicles like a Snark, Regulus, Bomarc, V-1, V-2, any IRBM, ICBM, cruise missile, drones, or RPV in military markings. Any smaller rockets where the launcher is a significant part of the model would go in the appropriate Armor artillery category. That would take care of the SCUDs on mobile trucks and Hawk missile batteries on a mobile pad. This would take some discretion on the part of the modeler and judges to determine when the carrier vehicle becomes prominent enough to make it more like a ground-based armor piece versus an aerial-based rocket.

4. Put military V-2s in the new category, too. Use markings and/or warhead as a discriminator for V-2 types.

5. Obviously, if an X-vehicle were not an aircraft, it would not go in Aircraft. (Sorry, the X-24 operates primarily in the atmosphere so it is an aircraft.) We never get enough X-plane entries to warrant a separate category, so use common sense and place them where they belong. My list attempts to document this for consistency.

6. What about a hypothetical hypersonic vehicle like the Sanger spaceplane? There is a kit of it, but it never flew nor was it even built. Should that go in Real Space? If you use the judging aspects, it probably goes in aircraft. But if you categorize by type, it is closest (but not an exact fit) to Real Space. But now the guys who enter an Apollo would complain that the spaceplane was never built so you can't judge the accuracy. Same with an X-20 or the X-33 (it's not quite built yet). But where do you put it? Not Science Fiction. Not aircraft. What about something even more hypothetical? Like a wave rider or someone's SSTO concept? There is a 'Hypothetical' category, but it specifically says 'Other than Space and Sci Fi'. While some of these are indeed "Real Space" by type, they are all different animals when categorized by judging criteria. Once upon a time we had a Hypothetical Space category, but it was discontinued due to lack of entries. I would put these in Real Space anyway, simply because that is the closest fit. Maybe we need to add note to that effect ('Includes hypothetical or proposed real space vehicles').

6A. What criteria should we use to categorize this? It was a paper study only, or maybe mocked up. You can't use "Type" because it has too many options:
- Real Space because it is a manned rocket (type)
- Military Aircraft since it has a pilot and wings (judging)
- Hypothetical since it was never really built.

I would go with Hypothetical since it is most like other hypothetical entries (e.g., Revell F-19), rather than a truly space-qualified hypothetical vehicle like a Sanger spaceplane. Also, this critter was not really supposed to fly outside the atmosphere. Since I am now inclined to put things like a hypothetical spaceplane (Sanger, X-20) in Real Space, the A-9 is more of a military vehicle, so it would go in Hypothetical.

7. There are several resin astronaut figures that clearly go in the appropriate Figure category. Some of the older plastic kits of astronauts get a little trickier. The Astronaut and MMU or the Gemini Astronaut all include a substantial back-pack. In some folks minds, this makes him a "vehicle", or a self-contained space ship, in effect. Maybe so, but from a modeling and judging perspective, I suggest we draw the line, use some consistancy and place all individual astronaut figures into the Figures division. If they become dioramas, they could go into Misc. Dioramas. If you had a scene of two astronauts doing something on a moonscape, technically it could go into Figure Vignettes (category 914), but I suggest "Misc. Dioramas" is the most appropriate place once any "real space" entry becomes a diorama.

8. In Santa Clara we had an Apollo LM with two astronauts on a lunar base. It went in Miscellaneous Dioramas. Once you put figures on a base, even if they come with the kit, it automatically becomes a diorama. The rules are very clear on that. We never get enough Real Space dioramas to warrant a separate category. So what do we do? Make an exception to the diorama rule? Actually, there are never many entries in Misc. Dioramas, so it may not be such a bad thing to leave these there. That is my recommendation (it also meets my need for consistency). In 99 in Orlando, there are some special awards for Apollo 11 related stuff.

Science Fiction (not in list...)

The biggest recent problem I can think of is the armored suits. In Santa Clara I believe they were split into three categories:
- Closed top (no figure visible) - Sci Fi from kits
- Open top, human driver - Figures (TBD split)
- Open top, alien driver - Fantasy figures

I don't want to spend much time on this topic right now. But I welcome any comments.


Note that these recommendations are for the IPMS National Contest. At Regional and local contests, the smaller number of entries in these categories may not permit all of these recommendations to hold. In that case, things like the proposed new military missiles category may have to be absorbed by Real Space, whether space modelers like it or not. I'm open to suggestions here.

In the list and commentary above, I tried to cover mostly the model subjects that have given us trouble in the past. I've tried to acknowledge that if we historically get very few entries, it may not warrant a new or special category. But it should be possible to try some new categories for next year's contest in Orlando. This would be in addition to the special space awards that Orlando is offering.

One criteria NOT to use in determining the proper category is to place an entry in a category where it has a greater chance of winning. I know that when there is an option or an ambiguity as to where an entry belongs (X-15s, missiles, etc.), a judge might be inclined to give the modeler a break by putting him in a smaller category where he may have a greater chance of winning something. While that is noble, I do not think it is the proper approach. It promotes inconsistency in categorizing entries and allows subjective factors to cloud the picture. It opens the door to favoritism and is non-reproducible. If the modeler wants to enter a tough category, that is his or her right.

Thanks for your consideration,

Mike Mackowski
Oct. 2, 1998

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